East Asian Customers' Taste in Cars Varies Widely

  • By Kim Seung-bum

    January 25, 2017 13:40

    East Asians' tastes in cars vary widely from country to country, presenting a delicate task for planners at the region's leading automakers.

    The Chosun Ilbo looked more closely at the preferences of Koreans, Japanese and Chinese as competition in the market intensifies.

    ◆ Koreans

    No single model among the 10 best-selling cars last year achieved sales of more than 100,000 for the first time in three years, because the economy is so sluggish.

    But the signals are different for zippy little subcompacts. Sales of the Kia Morning and GM Korea's Spark increased around four percent last year. At the same time, the proportion of mid-sized cars among the top 10 bestsellers increased.

    There were four mid-sized sedans among the top 10 -- the Hyundai Sonata, Santa Fe SUV, Kia Sorento SUV and Renault Samsung SM6. Two new models were added to the large car lineup, the Hyundai Grandeur sedan and Kia Carnival van.

    But no compacts ranked among the top 10. The Hyundai Accent, the most popular compact last year, ranked only 30th, while the Kia Pride also performed poorly.

    Kim Yong-geun of the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association said, "It seems polarization is more conspicuous in the car market as well" as the economy is going through a prolonged slump.

    ◆ Japanese

    In Japan, eco-friendly cars rule the roost. The Toyota Prius hybrid was the best-selling car last year with sales surging 95 percent.

    Toyota's Aqua hybrid sedan came third place, while other hybrids also ranked high, including the Toyota Sienta (fifth) and Honda Fit (seventh). The Nissan Note ranked ninth, propelling Nissan to the No. 1 spot in monthly sales after a hybrid version of the Note was released in November.

    Subcompacts have traditionally been popular in Japan, but the proportion of subcompacts among the top 10 has continued to shrink over the last three years. In 2014, seven of the 10 best-selling cars were subcompacts, but only five last year.

    An industry insiders said, "The Japanese government increased taxes on subcompacts in 2014, which gradually dampened the popularity of that segment, and it waned even further last year after Mitsubishi was found to have doctored fuel economy data."

    There was also no large sedan in the top 10.

    ◆ Chinese

    Emerging market China remains attached to big showy SUVs. A record 28.03 million cars were sold in China last year, and SUV sales surged 45 percent, spearheading growth. In comparison, sales of ordinary passenger cars increased only three percent.

    This trend was evident among the 10 bestsellers, where four were SUVs, compared to just one in 2014.

    Sales of Chinese-made cars are also increasing. Great Wall Motors and GAC both had cars in the top 10 -- the Haval H6 and Trumpchi GS4 SUVs.

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